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An example of a lauburu: each arm can be drawn with three sweeps of a compass

The lauburu or Basque cross has four comma-shaped heads similar to the Japanese tomoe. It can be constructed with a compass and straightedge, beginning with the formation of a square template; each head can be drawn from a neighboring vertex of this template with two compass settings, with one radius half the length of the other.



The lyre of Joaquina Téllez-Girón, Marchioness of Santa Cruz by Francisco de Goya (around 1805) is decorated with a lauburu.
A lauburu on the baptismal font at the church of Knopp-Labach

Historians and authorities compete to apply allegorical meaning to the ancient symbol–some say it signifies the "four heads or regions" of the Basque Country. The lauburu does not appear in any of the seven coats-of-arms that have been combined in the arms of the Basque Country: Higher and Lower Navarre, Guipuzcoa, Biscay, Alava, Labourd, Soule ; The Basque intellectual Imanol Mujica liked to say that the heads signify spirit, life, consciousness, and form – but it is generally used as a symbol of prosperity.

It was found in old stelas.

After the time of the Antonines, Camille Jullian[1] finds no specimen of swastikas, round nor straight, in the Basque area until modern times. Paracelsus's Archidoxis Magicae features a symbol[2] similar to the lauburu that is to be drawn to heal animals. M. Colas considers that the lauburu is not related to the swastika but comes from Paracelsus and marks the tombs of healers of animals and healers of souls, i.e., priests. Around the end of the 16th century, the round swastika appears abundantly as a Basque decorative element, in wooden chests or tombs, perhaps as another form of the cross.[3] Straight swastikas are not found until the 19th century. Many Basque homes and shops display the symbol over the doorway as a sort of talisman. In modern times it has been associated with the swastika. Sabino Arana interpreted it as a solar symbol, supporting his theory of a Basque solar cult based on wrong etymologies, in the first number of Euzkadi. The lauburu has been featured on flags and emblems of various Basque political organisations including Eusko Abertzale Ekintza.

The symbol in its positive form (right-facing) can symbolise life, and in its negative form (left-facing) death[citation needed]. This is the reason why many Basque tombstones display left-facing lauburus. It is also used as an alternative to the Christian cross in the death notices of Basque nationalists. The use of the lauburu as a cultural icon fell into some disuse under the Spanish nationalist government of Franco, who repressed many elements of Basque culture. For that reason, there is some dispute as to which direction the lauburu faces represents creation (life and good fortune) or destruction (death and misfortune). Some say that what produces the distinctive round heads is the wake created by the rotation of the cross, representing the elements and universe of energy. When rotating clockwise, the wake trails in the opposite direction with the heads facing left, and vice versa.


Lau buru means "four heads", "four ends" or "four summits" in Basque. Some argue this might be a folk etymology applied to the Latin labarum.

However, Father Fidel Fita thought the relation reversed, labarum being adapted from Basque in Octavian Augustus' time.[4]

See also


  1. ^ M. Camille Jullian in his preface to La tombe basque, according to Lauburu: La swástika rectilínea (Auñamendi Entziklopedia).
  2. ^ Picture in the Auñamendi Entziklopedia.
  3. ^ Lauburu: Conclusiones in Auñamendi Entziklopedia.
  4. ^ Letter from Fita to Fernández Guerra, reproduced in his Cantabria, note 8, page 126, reproduced in Historia crítica de Vizcaya y de sus Fueros, by Gregorio Balparda, according to Auñamendi Entziklopedia

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